How we got more than 1,500 survey responses with a last-minute scramble
Three days before releasing our survey, we realized that we were totally unprepared. Here’s how we rallied our way back…
This is part thirteen in our ongoing series, Journey to $100K a Month. Earlier posts can be found here.
I’d love to say that we had a rock-solid strategy in place well before we launched our survey.
I’d love to say that we systematically reverse-engineered our path to success.
I’d love to, but I can’t.
The fact is, we were treating the 2013 SaaS Small Business Conversion Survey like any other blog post on our editorial calendar.
Sure, we’d share it with our subscribers and ask folks to pass it on, but beyond that, we hadn’t really thought about promotion.
…until three days before we were scheduled to launch it.
I was getting ready to power down for the day, and decided to give the survey another quick read-through before calling it quits.
“Well, shit,” I realized as I reached the end.
We were asking for a hell of a lot.
Our usual ask of our readers is to leave a comment and share the post. A few seconds of effort, and plenty of incentive if they think our content will be valuable to their friends.
We were asking people not only to take five minutes — about 1,000% more time than usual — to fill out a survey, but we were asking for data that, for many, would require digging through internal numbers to come up with. On top of that, we wanted data that most people would cringe at the thought of sharing.
Not a small request, to be sure.
The following morning, our team huddled and brainstormed how we could extend the reach of the survey, and get as many people as possible to take the time and fill it out.
The ensuing scramble may very well have saved our survey…
Putting together prizes that people actually wanted
One tactic that we shamelessly stole from dozens of other companies who had successfully asked readers to participate in events, surveys and contests was to give away prizes.
My first thought was to put a $100 Amazon gift card as a grand prize.
Thinking about it now, that probably would have gotten us a total of four responses (and mine would be 1/4 of them).
The prizes had to be big, and they had to be desirable.
We thought about what we would want if we were in the running, and came up with a “dream list” of prizes.
The total value of our prize list?
We certainly didn’t have that kind of budget for this. So we got to work.
Surprisingly (to me), every single company we emailed said yes.
In the end, we were able to offer:
- A 90-day subscription to KISSmetrics (Value: $450)
- A six-month subscription to Unbounce (Value: $594)
- A three-month subscription to to Mixergy (x3) (Value: $199 each)
- A one-year subscription to Buffer (x3) (Value: $120 each)
- A $50 credit to Clarity.fm (x10) (Value: $50 each)
- A three-month subscription to CrazyEgg (Value: $297)
- A three-month subscription to Moz (Value: $297)
We threw in ten three-month subscriptions to Groove, ten signed copies of Gary Vaynerchuk’s book (I bought 500 of these when he was doing a big promotional push), and two tickets to the Business of Software Conference, and we finally had a prize list to be proud of.
What impact did the prizes have on the outcome? Unfortunately, it’s not something we could track, but my gut tells me it was significant.
And anecdotally, I got dozens of emails from people “requesting” to win specific prizes.
(For the record, we picked the winners using random.org.)
Takeaway: People love prizes, but they have to be big enough to warrant what you’re asking. With the right strategy, offering thousands of dollars (or more) in prizes doesn’t have to cost you anything.
Getting partners on board
One big side benefit to our prize collection efforts was the team of rock-star partners it led us to.
Every company who put up prizes got their logo on our blog, aligning our brands. They now had skin in the game.
And best of all, the reach of our group of partners, put together, is massively wider than the reach of our own blog.
When all was said and done, traffic from Tweets like these accounted for more than 20% of the survey click-throughs from our blog:
Takeaway: Think outside of your own audience, and come up with ways you can incentivize other influencers to get involved. The value is not only in the traffic numbers they can deliver; the validation they offer can clear a lot of hurdles in getting people to do what you’re asking.
Promotion and Repetition
With a big ask like ours, we didn’t think that a single post on our blog would bring in a ton of responses.
And sure enough, our first post (not counting the partner Twitter traffic from above) netted only a couple hundred responses.
We needed to stay in front of people, and doing that took two tactics:
First, we cleared the rest of our editorial calendar for the next couple of weeks and dedicated the rest of December to campaign for survey responses on the blog.
We published a follow-up post — Our Metrics REVEALED: Revenue, Churn, Conversions and More — that pulled the curtain back on our own responses to the survey, followed by a call-to-action prompting readers to go to the survey.
The key here was that it wasn’t another post parroting the same message; frankly, that would be annoying.
We made sure that this post met the same criteria as our regular posts: interesting, valuable and fun to read.
The repetition paid off, and this second post brought in nearly 40% more responses than the first one did.
Second, we pulled an appropriately metrics-focused post out of our own blog queue, added info about the survey at the end, and pitched it to KISSmetrics as a guest blog post.
The piece — How One SaaS Startup Reduced Churn 71% Using “Red Flag” Metrics — was relevant to their audience, and they agreed to publish it.
The post performed very well on their blog (in fact, we still get traffic from it). This extended our reach far beyond our own audience, and kept the survey in people’s minds.
Takeaway: As long as it’s valuable, interesting and relevant, content marketing is incredibly valuable for promoting, well, just about anything.
What made this all possible
Truthfully, I suspect none of this would have worked out the same way if we didn’t have three things:
- A strong, engaged audience of readers who trusted us enough to fill out the survey, and gave our partners an incentive to get involved
- Relationships with influencers that made it easy to pitch them on our idea
- Pre-existing content that we could quickly and easily tweak for guest posting
The thing is, we didn’t have any of those things just six months ago.
We got them all simply by executing on the content marketing and engagement strategies I’ve already shared in detail here and here.
With some effort and smartly-applied strategy, any business can replicate (or top) these results.
If, a few months from now, you think you may need a last-minute scramble to succeed, the time to start executing is now.